After nine days of mass protest demanding a return to civilian rule, armored vehicles have rolled into the Myanmar cities and cut internet access. The armored vehicles appeared in Yangon, Myitkyina, and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state on Sunday evening. After that day, near the Sule Pagoda in central Yangon, more than a dozen police trucks with four water cannon vehicles were deployed.
“Internet Shutdown”- a major tool in protest
As a sign of averting the protest, the Myanmar coup last week saw an internet shutdown. Again, a near-total internet shutdown has come into effect from Monday, 1 am. Early Monday morning, the internet blackout lasted eight hours dropping the connectivity to 15% of the ordinary level. Even the crackdown on protests has drawn international criticism. A resident of Yangon, Win Tun told a news agency, “To do bad things, the military has shut down the internet. We didn’t sleep the whole night so we could see what happen”.
Junta fired to disperse protesters
To disperse protesters at a power plant, on Sunday, security forces opened fire at them. In the Northern state of Kachin, soldiers were deployed to the power plants, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators. The police were seen aiming long guns into the air amid sounds that resembled gunfire. Local media stated that few of the people were injured by the rubber bullets that were fired into the crowd. But, there was no immediate confirmation of a death toll and no comment from the government.
Civil Disobedience Movement
Since February 8, many staff had stopped coming to work causing delays to international flights. The junta has threatened action against the civil servants and ordered them back to work. The civil servants and the government employees are also on strike, in addition to the protests that result in the disruption of train services throughout the country. Even the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt. Richard Horsey said, “This has the potential to also affect vital functions- the junta can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controllers and central banks”.
The Policy Times policy Suggestions
- An Internet shutdown is not mean to tackle a protesting situation. The Myanmar ministry must keep in mind that the negative effect of the internet shutdown is heavier. Rather, they can use the digital platform well to bring a probable solution to the protest.
- If returning the country’s democratically-elected government to power can bring peace back in Myanmar, then the junta must do so. Late-night raids, mounting arrests, deploying armored vehicles are only signs of desperation. Instead of ending the protest, all these methods will lead to the increment of the move.
- The Civil disobedience movement which has brought strikes must be taken into account otherwise it will continue crippling many functions of the government.